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Environmental Impact of Outdoor Cannabis Production

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
June 10, 2024

Environmental impacts of cannabis production are of increasing concern because it is a newly legal and growing industry. Although a handful of studies have quantified the impacts of indoor production, very little is known about the impact of outdoor cannabis agriculture. Outdoor production typically uses little direct energy but can require significant fertilizer and other inputs due to dissipative losses via runoff and mineralization. Conversely, fertilizer high in nitrogen can be counterproductive, as it produces flowers with decreased cannabinoid content. This study has two aims: (1) To identify reduced-fertilizer regimes that provide optimal cannabis flower yields with reduced inputs and (2) to quantify how this shifts greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion (fossil and metal), terrestrial acidification, and the eutrophication potential of outdoor cannabis production. Primary data from a fertilizer response trial are incorporated into a life-cycle assessment model. Results show that outdoor cannabis agriculture can be 50 times less carbon-emitting than indoor production. Dissemination of this knowledge is of utmost importance for producers, consumers, and government officials in nations that have either legalized or will legalize cannabis production.

Vincent Desaulniers Brousseau
Research Areas
Food & Agriculture

agriculture, cannabis, life-cycle assessment, greenhouse gas, cannabinoid, plant biology,

Publication Type
Journal Article
Full Citation

Desaulniers Brousseau, V., Goldstein, B. P., Sedlock, C., & Lefsrud, M. (2024). Environmental impact of outdoor cannabis production. ACS Agricultural Science & Technology. Published by American Chemical Society.